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Who Let That Rabble In Here?

I had some thoughts related to this article that appeared on Gamespot recently.

http://www.gamespot.com/news/ted-price-industry-today-is-a-different-world-6401456

It takes 20 years from the time it's invented for a technology to become ubiquitous. It worked that way with radio, television, personal computers, the Internet, cell phones and many other items. Once a technology ubiquitous regular people start using it and if it's an entertainment or informational media, the general level of the content moves toward the lowest common denominator to appeal to a wide audience. As this occurs in the world of gaming we see the old timers and dedicated hobbyists complaining that "the casuals" (i.e. everyone else) are ruining gaming with simple fare like Angry Birds and dumbed down sequels.

In reality there is no loss of quality in content for the people who want to dig deeper. With gaming, as with all the other entertainment vehicles you still have content created for the more discerning audience along with a great deal of content aiming for what plays in Peoria. Some people fear that developers are being lured into creating "casual" games because that's where the money is and neglect the deeper games aimed at the hobbyist. When things are in a state of flux this can even be true at times. But the good news is there isn't a fixed pool of developers. It's a simple function of supply and demand: as the audience grows the number of content creators grows, and in the end everyone gets to see a wider variety of content aimed at a wider variety of gamers.

To use television as a comparison, while you absolutely see lowbrow yet popular content like American Idol, Survivor and Two and a Half Men taking center stage, you can also find intellectually challenging and stimulating fare. All you need to do is look a bit. There is also a great deal of variety. You can also find hundreds of channels of programming that cover just about every interest under the sun. I'm sure gaming will follow the same pattern.

We'll also see gaming grow beyond the adolescent male focused themes and design choices we see so much of now. Those games are always going to be around because there will always be a large audience for them, but those gamers aren't the only people on the demand side of the equation any more. No one wants to be laughed at and called childish for being a gamer, and that perception is finally changing for the better. But part and parcel with that change in attitude is an influx of new outlooks and experiences from women, older adults and people of all walks of life who want their views, values and experiences reflected in their entertainment. This is another source of change anxiety for some of the veterans. As the industry is under assault for it's male focus that at times leads to overt sexism it might seem that outside forces are trying to get rid of the kind of games that appeal to them, or turn them into something less appealing. The only thing that will happen in the end is there will be more choices and variety of viewpoints and themes and less outright misogyny, which is best for all involved.

So yes, gaming is changing, and it seems like it's changing for the worse at times, but based on history I have faith that in the end gaming will grow and change for the better.

To Be Honest

Comments pet peeves # 1:

People saying "to be honest" when they're just expressing their opinion. "To be honest" doen't mean "I will now state the undeniable truth" or "everyone knows this but only I am willing to say it." In the strictest sense, it means "I'm not lying." Saying it implies that when you do not, you may be lying. Normally the phrase is used when someone is adept enough at critical thinking to voice considerations that are at odds with their opinion, it could be stated as "if I'm going to be completely honest with myself, this must be considered."

Saving the Playstation Vita

I think Sony has only sold about 1.2 million Playstation Vitas, so they need to do something fast in order to get a critical mass of systems out there to attract buyers and in turn attract developers.

A price drop on the system itself would help, along with either bundling a memory card or dropping the price on those as well. People just can't wrap their heads around paying as much or more for a handheld as they do for a regular console. When you figure in the price of a memory card, the Vita costs more than a PS3. The games themselves are overpriced at $40 or more each, but that's more or less comparable to 3DS games (not DSi games). The prices on these games seem to drop more slowly than games for other systems, regardless of how popular the game is. The downloadable games could also use a price drop - $15 - 25 for an old PSP game is ridiculous. Finally, Sony needs to add Vita to PlayStation Plus or make a seperate PS+ just for Vita and give members the "instant game library" and free games, even if they're PSP games, Minis or PSOne classics.

Also, in terms of usability, the game store on Vita is awful - As it stands each game only gets a cover shot and a short description, they don't even have screen shots. What they really need is to have gameplay and trailer video and better yet demos. The 3DS has all of these, and the store itself has a much better aura of flash and flair than the Vita's sterile lists. If you visit PSN on the Web, you would think the Vita doesn't even exist. Case in pont, they have surveys asking you about your gaming habits and system(s) and they don't even include Vita.

Why do I feel the need to defend Gamespot?

Many commenters on reviews here seem to think 7.0 is a mediocre or even a bad score. I'm guessing they're looking at the score like a school grade. It's not, they use the whole scale, not just the top half. A score of 5 = mediocre = a letter grade of "C".

I can see why there might be confusion, other reviewers do work a 1-10 scale like a school grade (GameInformer). I guess that means either Metacritic is interpolating all their data so every review is adjusted to use the same scale or they skew scores lower and they're not reliable. Anyway, reading the explanation of the score linked from every review should clear up any misconceptions.

http://www.gamespot.com/pages/misc/reviewguidelines.html

Of course it also seems obvious that many of the commenters aren't even reading the review. I guess you can't expect them expend the effort to read the explanation of the system.

The Pernicious Horseless Carriage.

I keep reading comments on articles from GS members saying they'll quit gaming if it goes free to play, they'll drag out their old PSOne or Sega and play on it forevermore if games start going the downloadable route, or they'll never buy a console with a tablet connected to it. So much fear of the future! I can hear people 15 years ago saying they would never read their news from a computer off the Internet, "I want paper in my hands!" Yeah, how's that working for you as the printed press slowly disappears? All I hear is worst case scenarios and cries of Doom that boils down to a fear of the unknown - because nothing has happened yet and no one really knows exactly what it will be like and how it will work.

Just consider the comments section of a recent article about the Crytek dev who says tablets will replace consoles (and games will go free to Play). (http://www.gamespot.com/news/future-of-consoles-is-free-to-play-says-crytek-6383927) A tablet is more or less a PC with a touch screen. There is no reason a powerful enough tablet can't stream game video to your TV, and there is no reason you can't plug a controller or a keyboard and mouse into one. This is one advantage I see for the new MS tablet over the iPad. If it runs Windows games, it's already the tablet this guy is talking about. Obviously you aren't going to want to get your milti-gigabyte games over your mobile data plan and pay huge overages, you'll download them via WiFi. Even then, there is no reason you couldn't buy a disk drive and plug it into your tablet and get games on disk. I'm rambling, but a tablet could also serve as sort of an console emulator. The next XBox or Playstation could even be a tablet. Why does it have to have the form factor it has now? Why does it have to be a pain to lug around?

If fear of change is a mark of getting old, a large part of the community here posting comments on articles seems like it belongs in a retirement home.

Social Media Gamespot

Whoa... am I on Facespot or Gamebook?

I don't know how I think about this yet. My first impression is negative, but then I'm getting older and more resisitant to change. And the inner me screams that I should not be like that.

More on this later.

DLC is a scam

There's just something sleazy about the DLC business model currently used in gaming.

In the glory days of PC gaming, when I got my start in the hobby, a game was released with the expectation on everyone's part that it was whole and complete. The length of a game was a selling point, as a longer game was seen to have more value than a short one. Games were expected to last in the neighborhood of 40 hours. If a game was successful it might get an expansion pack that added substantially to the game - a whole new campaign with a new story - basically a whole new game on the same engine. The typical expansion was sold for about half what the original game cost. Other times successful games would just get a sequel - a full-fledged whole new game.

The current generation of consoles is where the concept of DLC as we know it now was introduced. Previous generations of consoles simply did not have the capability to offer add-on content. Console games were released in the same manner as PC games, as I described above. "Expansions" became smaller and smaller and more numerous, so all we get now is a new side quest, a new map or two or a new weapon. These things cost less than the old concept of an expansion pack, but if you add the price of all the DLC for an popular game together you're typically spending much more than even the cost of the original game, and getting much less than a whole new game. Back in the day, additional content like this would often be added for free in patches or updates.

The worst part is every game published now has DLC planned in advance to sell in bits and pieces later on. Some of it is even important to the story of the game and/or its sequels. (e.g. ME2 DLC) All it is is an attempt by developers and publishers to make more money off each title they release. The latest trend of putting the "DLC" on the release disc has crossed the line into the realm of the unethical. Related to this is the trend to splitting what should be one game into multiple titles (Starcraft 2), much like Hollywood has been splitting Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hobbit into multiple movies.

If the original Half Life was released today by your typical greedy publisher I'm pretty sure the part of the game where you're captured by the soldiers and the part on the alien world would be missing from the game and sold later as DLC. The rocket launcher would probably be a micro-transaction add-on. Instead of 40+ hours of gaming, you'd get 20 and add the rest back with another $60 of DLC purchases.

Mass Effect Whiners: Be Careful What You Wish For

re: http://www.gamespot.com/news/mass-effect-3-falsely-advertised-says-bbb-6371157

Way to go crybabies. You've just helped move gaming from an art form into the corporate world of design by lawyers and marketers more than any other act in the history of the hobby. You should have remembered the old saying - be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Just watch, some ambulance chaser is going to file a cla$$ action lawsuit against Bioware. I guarantee it. That will help gaming. Idiots, idiots, idiots. If Bioware faces legal and financial repercussions because of how they chose to end their story, it will be huge. Anyone who doesn't like a game's ending will have precedent to sue the developer, which will have a chilling effect on creativity. All games will have to have a happy ending featuring the player is the great hero lest they face the fury of nerd rage in the courtroom. I can only hope that when (not if) the lawsuit happens a rational judge will throw out the case on the first day of hearings.

As a gamer I don't consider myself a consumer of a product, any more than I consider myself a consumer of books, movies, paintings or any other art form. Games and those other items are not commodities. My idealistic notions are alive and well in the Indie game community and even at some of the larger development houses. It's only dead at the giant companies like Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Activision, Square Enix, etc.. Their business practices are first and foremost aimed at profits, while gamers, the hobby and the art form take very distant second place, at best, if they even consider them.

I have nothing against capitalism - it's the best way to weed out the crap. I think companies that put gamers, innovation and artistry first will do well in the market and the corporations that are killing those ideals will be forced out of the industry. People already hate those companies and they're itching for an alternative.

Why DLC is seen as a rip-off in 2012

Expansions and DLC are NOT INEVITABLE. It used to be a game had to be good and sell well before there was any talk of an expansion. Now every game produced has DLC and it's planned from the start and some of it is written along with the core game. There is no reason other than charging more that that content can't be part of the original relase. That's why we feel ripped off and that we're not getting complete games.

MMO Nerd Rage

It's been a while since I read a MMO message board. I was doing just that today and the air of negativity they have about them hit me particularly hard. Like a dormitory bathroom after burrito night.

I have a Lifetime subscription to The lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) I bought when the game came out nearly 5 years ago. I've put a lot of time into that game, and I still play off and on since my subscription is paid up forever. I'm currently spending a good deal of my gaming time in Middle Earth with the recent Rise of Isengard expansion. This rant could be about any MMO message board, from what I've seen, so I'm not picking on the LOTRO community in particular. In fact the people in game are some of the friendliest and most courteous I've encountered.

I was in the LOTRO forums looking for information about certain game mechanics and reading threads that caught my eye. I have that certain slowing-down-for-a-car-wreck compulsion to read topics I know are going to be contentious and draw out the posters who like to complain. I read things like: "I don't want a level increase, I'll have to grind out all my alts again!" "System X is the worst thing for end gamers, it has to be fixed or I'm leaving!" "Item X is useless, I spent all this time getting it and now I can't bear to own it because there is something .01% better out there!" "The latest update only gives 1000 points for combat between level 70 and level 80, but the previous one gave 1001, how can we be so weak?!?!?" "The devs hate the players, they nerfed Warriors just to be rude!" If I had a dime for every time I've read that something was a "slap in the face" to players from the devs I could buy a nice sofa and loveseat, and maybe a coffee table. The same goes for calling something useless because it's not the ultimate pinnacle of best.

Let's put things into perspective. All of you who incessantly complain about the game you're playing - that's exactly all it is you're doing. You're supposed to be having fun. If you're not, then something is wrong. Maybe you're addicted, maybe you're too personally invested in your game character(s) to separate yourself from the virtual world. Maybe you can't stop until you have the ultimate best of everything, and therefore "win" the endless-by-nature MMO. Regardles of why you're torturing yourself, it's time to stop and do something else.

Or maybe, just maybe, there are parts of the game or others who play that you really like. Perhaps it would be wise to focus on them and not the parts you find so outrageous.

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